August Staff Picks
This is the first book in a trilogy about two logical 1950s teenagers, an American girl and a British boy, who find out that his father is an alchemist and that magic is a type of science. They must learn how to make magic work so that they can save the world from darker sciences. Their friend Pip, a Cockney pickpocket, and the girl’s television-writer parents provide some humor, despite the serious themes. There is some mild romance and this book is recommended for boys or girls ages 10 to 14.
This was the first Grisham book I read (I’ve now read most of them). Ok, I chose it because it was small, but I was surprised and then delighted at the quality of this book. Family values and community are prominent features of this book and I loved the ending (even though I often ((usually)) tend toward bah humbug). This would be an excellent way to get into the spirit of the season. Enjoy.
Ryan seemed to have the world by a string, until symptoms appear out of nowhere and he is diagnosed with a heart problem that is life threating. A year later he is doing fine until strange gifts start arriving and a disturbing video arrives with the chilling message “Your heart belongs to me” . Ryan must unravel the web of events that are happening to figure out who wants his new heart. Koontz keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
My Hero Academia, vol. 1 by Kohei Horikoshi
Set in a world where 80 percent of the global population is gifted with super human powers known as “quirks.” My Hero Academia follows the life of a young man named Izuku Midoriya or “Deku” by his peers, an individual who is part of the 20 percent born without powers. Despite his shortcomings, Midoriya is gifted the tutoring of a legendary hero by the name of All Might, in his crusade to enroll in the academy for heroes. A fantastic story that gives a unique spin on the influx of superhero stories present in today’s media.
Officer Ellery Hathaway knows the Vanishing Season is approaching and not because of her police training. Rather, she is the sole survivor of serial killer Francis Michael Coben, something she’s kept secret for many years. When, after 3 years in a row people in her town have disappeared around her birthday, she knows someone knows her secret and she must stop them before the vanishing season begins. A gripping read for those who like thrillers.
A small town hides big secrets and Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years prior Falk was accused of murder and Luke was his alibi. Now, more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. ”One of the most stunning debuts I’ve ever read . . . Every word is near perfect.”– David Baldacci. I’m not sure I’d say “perfect” but it is a fascinating read.
When you just can’t let fear stop you from enjoying what you love.
The reluctant “mother” to four young geese, grumpy Bruce the bear loses his temper when he migrates home in the spring only to discover that mice have converted his den into a hotel. The Bruce books are such fun! I highly recommend Mother Bruce and Bruce’s Big Move by the same author.
The beautiful language of Tuck Everlasting sucks the reader in from the start. A balmy summer in a new place has the main character, Winifred, seeking adventure. Exploring the forest near her home, she stumbles upon a strange spring. Before she is tempted to drink, a boy named Jesse Tuck stops her. Jesse invites Winnie into his world and takes her on an adventure she remembers for the rest of her life. This book explores themes of immortality, coming-of-age, and young love.
The Little Prince examines the precious imagination and wonders that people lose when they become adults. The narrator is a pilot who crash lands his plane in a desert. Most unexpectedly, a boy appears where the pilot has crashed and is referred to as “the little prince.” The little boy tells the story of how he arrived in the desert from his planet. Throughout his journey, he is confronted with varying types of adults who never seem to quite understand him. The pilot does his best to understand the boy and see the world from his point-of-view.
July Staff Picks
Kiron escapes imprisonment in the jouster’s compound in Tia on the back of a dragon he has raised in secret. He is headed for Alta his home. To get to Alta he must cross a desert with many perils. Kiron has more than he has ever hoped for, a family and friends, but he soon finds that it all comes with a cost.
In this (and all of his books) Furst acquaints us with very unfamiliar areas such as Romania, and Turkey and weaves them into a story about a Russian emigre who is a citizen of greater Europe and often resides in Paris. Ilya Alexandrovich Serebin is resourceful, a survivor. He is given a task by British Intelligence to disrupt shipments of oil to Germany from Romania. In this very suspenseful novel, Furst creates a flow that is both poetic and engaging. He can’t write them fast enough for me. Enjoy (This was my second reading)
Wow, talk about action packed! I couldn’t put this one down. Two young sisters disappear from a strip mall and, finding the local police inept at investigating, the family hires a private investigator to search for the girls. Using unconventional practices and favors owed, bounty hunter turned investigator, Alice Vega, along with her reluctant ex-cop sidekick, Max Caplan (aka Cap), doggedly makes it her mission to bring the girls home safe and sound and the sooner the better.
Alice Vega is a great, new, strong female lead in a male dominated genre and I highly recommend this book and I look forward to many sequels featuring Alice and Cap.
Reminiscent of Rear Window (or It Had to be Murder) by Cornell Woolrich, this page turner is a worth the time. Anna Fox, a psychologist who suffers from agoraphobia, spends her time watching old movies, chatting online, drinking wine and watching her neighbors. When she witnesses what she thinks is a murder across the way her whole life spins out of control. Interesting twists in this first novel by Mr Finn, some I admit I didn’t see coming. Worth a read.
These are all books about pre-teens with unique goals, told in their correspondence, sometimes on paper and sometimes online or by phone. Sophie Brown wants to take care of her great-uncle’s possibly magical chickens, while Arthur Bean wants to win a writing contest in order to cure his father’s grief, and secret twins Ruth and Ruby are trying to reunite in a 21st-century version of The Parent Trap. Friends, family, teachers, and helpful strangers all offer their opinions and information, balancing out the protagonists’ viewpoints.
All three books are funny but with an undertone of sorrow (writing to dead relatives is a part of all three). The novels obviously can be read as stand-alones, but they play off each other in interesting ways, with Chickens a story of California, while Genius is very Canadian, and Starling contrasts America and England.
“Propelled by its heroine’s wisecracking voice, set in a city that’s at once stunningly imagined and intimately familiar, and brimming over with clever problem-solving and heist-y fun, Artemis is another irresistible brew of science, suspense, and humor from #1 bestselling author Andy Weir.”
Artemis, not as good as The Martian, but still fun.
Talmadge has lived in his apple orchard since he was a little boy. Suffering the heartache of losing his mother to grief, and his sister to bandits, Talmadge chooses to live alone and to never marry. All he needs is the solitude of his orchard. Until one day, two young girls show up at the edges of the orchard. Both teenage girls are pregnant, and they shy away from Talmadge’s help. Talmadge struggles to reach out to these two girls and ends up involved in a story that will upset his peaceful, but lonely solitude. This story is set in the Pacific Northwest and creates a vibrant picture of life at the turn of the twentieth century.
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
Set in rural Iowa, A Thousand Acres, follows a complicated farming family that is experiencing a major change. Larry Cook, owner of the farm and father to three daughters, has decided to incorporate the farm and to transfer ownership to his daughters. The three daughters, Ginny, Rose, and Caroline are confused and mistrusting of their father’s choice. Soon after, conflict arises between the daughters, their husbands, and their father. Terrible truths about the past and the present come to light that influence the three sisters’ decisions about the farm.
Set in a painfully blunt, satirical future. Transmetropolitan follows the outrageous life of Spider Jerusalem, a former journalist, who reluctantly leaves his life of “luxury” in a snowy-mountain cabin to continue his career in journalism. traveling back to the collection of bustling mega-structures appropriately named “The City.” From then on Spider finds himself covering stories regarding discrimination of trans-human revolutionaries, political discord, new world religions, and many more bizarre headlines in this dark, wonderful beginning to Spider’s exploits.
Following up from last month, my pick for July is The Essential Phone Interview Handbook. This book has lots of handy tips on how to conduct successful interviews.
What is history? A story told by the winners? No, that is myth. The facts of America’s brutal displacement of the Cherokee nation from the Eastern states to Oklahoma are brought to life in this educational film. (The tale unfolds in both Cherokee and English.) This movie reveals fact after painful fact: betrayals by friends and tribal members, terrorism by frontiersmen and murderous opportunism by America’s leaders. Andrew Jackson, whose portrait was recently dredged up to adorn Trump’s Oval Office, is the Villain-in-Chief. The Cherokee removal was injustice of the first degree, protested by Ralph Waldo Emerson and other influential people alerted to the crime. (Emerson’s letter was recently read at our Poetry Open Mic.) The heroes of the film show moral courage and integrity. But most Americans portrayed in the film did what people always do. They settled for the sanitized version they read in the media or heard on the street, praying for the souls of their victims, while savoring the free land and resources “opened up” by the Cherokee removal. The movie shows how history cannot be faked, the evidence remains. Truth takes the long view. The Real People of this earth may have to wait to be heard. The mythologizer may have a louder voice and flashier performance, but real history is riveting. It’s not a case of winner-take-all. The losers never lose the most important thing: their story.
June Staff Picks
It’s NaNoWriMo publication month and what better way to celebrate these 50 newly published authors than by checking their books out at the library? Stop by and take a look at all the new titles along with the past year’s publications. Over 200 titles available! Don’t know where to find them? Ask at the desk and any staff member can direct you to the stash.
Set in an English suburb, Bad Machinery is a slice of life graphic novel following the lifestyles of six middle schoolers and the strange events occurring within their quaint city.
a great story with plenty character development, and great interactions of the cast, accompanied with a grounded sense of fantasy, and witty humor.
A read that must be seen for yourself to truly experience what this story has to offer.
A laugh-out-loud read-aloud between grumpy Gerald the Elephant and cheerful Piggie the Pig, as well as a great easy reader, with enough repetition for youngsters to quickly pick up the words, which are all in cartoon-style speech bubbles. It also teaches the importance of politely sticking up for yourself.
Greetings: my staff picks for June, 2018 are three by Peter Mayle: Toujours Provence, Encore Provence, and French Lessons. Mayle’s non-fiction is great. He obviously knows and loves his subjects. There are fascinating stories about food, a really memorable story about a reverse mortgage and when you read these you will suddenly have an appetite and may contract wanderlust. Enjoy
OMGoodness! What a volatile ride this book was. Twelve-year-old Patch is wrangled into a heinous crime by the mature and manipulative 14-year-old Matthew; a crime whose ramifications are felt many years into the future. Told by varying narrators, back and forth in time, this novel is impactful and telling in more ways than one. As Dennis Drabelle says in the Washington Post, one of the “book’s strengths is the light it sheds on the phenomenon of an otherwise law-abiding male giving in to volcanic rage.” Well worth the read.
If you like cozy murders set on the Mendocino coast and love dogs, you’ll get a kick out of Janet’s books. Kelly Jackson, her “sleuthing seniors”, the Silver Sentinels and the dogs with special abilities solve murders while participating in local festivals and running a busy B&B. Janet hails from the Bay Area but spends a lot of time on the north coast doing research for her next books, often giving credit to locals for the help they’ve provided. You might even know one or two. Check out her website, janetfinsilver.com, for all the fun and background for these “Murder at the…” books.
After apocalyptic events, Cal and Frida try to survive the wilderness of Northern California. The couple’s situation becomes dire when Frida finds out that she is pregnant. Cal is hesitant to trust anyone in their dystopian surroundings, but Frida is desperate for a community for her child to grow up in. As they venture into “civilization,” they have to decide if the new world is right for them and their growing family.
The Earth is slowly being invaded by alien creatures that have implanted themselves into the brains of humans. The aliens believe their cause is just because they are peaceful and takeover using non-violent strategies. However, they underestimate the powerful emotions and will of the human race. One host, Wanderer, struggles to inhabit the body of a human who refuses to fade away. The human, Melanie, has too many people to keep living for. The battle to inhabit Melanie’s body takes both of them on a journey that changes how they view the universe.
An accomplished interviewer, John Brady has put together an indispensable guide to the art of questioning. “The Craft of Interviewing” covers all aspects of the interview process — getting the interview, doing research, handling the subject face-to-face, hurdling hazards, getting tough, taking notes (on the sly, if need be), taping, dealing with off-the-record types, concluding the interview, verifying it, and writing it up. Being the voice of the library on KNYO 107.7 FM radio every Friday requires a lot of skills and the art of interviewing is crucial. This book has helped me a lot.
This story will catch you and leave you wanting more. When an experiment goes very wrong, the fight between good and evil in the form of a dog and monkey will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you know Southern California you will be able to recognize several of the locations described in this book. One of Dean Koontz’ best books.
A true story set in the 1920s about the birth of the FBI and members of the Osage Indian Nation. This story tells a tale about money, power, oil and desperation, the murders of dozens of people in cold blood and the investigation that reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. Shocking and gripping at the same time.
The short story by E. Annie Proulx is as spare and brutal as the film. “Home, home on the range” is hard to come by for most people, but twice as hard if you’re 19, broke and gay. A tent on a mountainside will have to do. But it’s not summer camp. (These boys aren’t drivin’ down to Denver to buy a wedding cake, come fall.) Forget the Rockies’ panorama and sweeping shots seen in the movie. Proulx offers no Big Picture of freedom and equality for these two men. There is the joy of sex and the thrill of pursuit, but it is not shared like a gift. It’s paid out like a punishment. Each man vies for control of the relationship and abuses the trust of others on the sidelines, especially the women they choose to marry, but in whom they can’t confide. Like a lot of American stories, we are offered a voyeuristic peek into the private lives of people without rights, as the boys’ employer spies on them through binoculars. Brokeback is a brilliant indictment of homophobia, internalized and otherwise. Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist are men of few words, though only three words would’ve changed their story. Either one could’ve said: “We are gay,” and set the other free to agree or hit the road. Whether their frequent “fishing trips” would have been as thrilling is doubtful, but Jack might not have risked and lost his life on the side of a Texas road, the victim of a hate crime. Ennis’ sentimental attachment to Jack’s shirt is all that’s left of their love. Works as a country song, but what a country!
May Staff Picks
Sandry’s book is the first book in the Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce. The age range for this series is 10-14 years old, but I believe that readers of all ages will enjoy the friendship and adventures that these characters create. The stories are set in a land called Emelan where magic exists in two varieties: academic magic and ambient magic. Academic magic is magic that uses the mage’s internal energy through physical movement or verbal incantation. Ambient magic is environmental magic that is typically tied to a craft. Four young mages end up together at the Winding Circle community of magic users. There they discover they have an affinity for a certain ambient magic. Sandry’s magic derives from weaving and cloth. Tris’ magic influences the weather. Daja’s magic interacts with metals and smithing. Lastly, Briar’s magic is tied with plants and gardening. The four end up working together to save their communities; As orphans, they quickly form a family with each other and their teachers.
A wall divides two regions: Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom. Ancelstierre has the same level of technology and infrastructure as the twentieth century. The Old Kingdom is a place where elemental and charter magic exists. The Old Kingdom is mostly abandoned; only necromancers and the living dead roam there. Sabriel is a young girl attending Wyverly College for girls. One day she receives a message from a dead rabbit by bringing it back to life. Her father, whom she has never known, has died and she has now inherited the title of “the Abhorsen.” The Abhorsen is a master necromancer who is charged with guiding the living dead back through the seven gates of death. Armed with a bandolier of bells representing each gate, Sabriel goes forth into the Old Kingdom to stop an evil necromancer named Terciel from raising an army of the dead.
Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire is the exciting, funny, magical beginning to a brand new series. Arlo Finch, his widowed mother, and his teenage sister move in with his eccentric taxidermist uncle in an isolated Colorado mountain community, where being a Ranger Scout has some unexpected challenges, including finding out what happened to a girl who disappeared years ago and figuring out why a dead dog keeps following Arlo. Particularly recommended for boys ages 10 to 13, although with appeal to girls and, as a read-aloud, to younger kids.
Injustice: Gods among us by Tom Taylor
Injustice is a unique reimagining of the beloved heroes of the DC universe. The story follows the rise and demise of “The Man of steel,” Superman, and the “Caped crusader,” Batman. After losing his city, his wife, his child, and his sanity to the Joker, Superman decides enough is enough, killing the clown, hunting down all rogues and threats in his way, and bringing a new era of peace under the rule of the mad Kryptonian, leaving Batman to question the morals of the strict dictator, and former friend.
Bats of the Republic is an interesting Science Fiction/adventure story starting in 1843 with a fragile naturalist and his discovery of a cloud of bats that lead him off the trail. Three hundred years later Zeke inherits a sealed envelope from his grandfather. When the envelope goes missing, Zeke finds himself caught between the government and a mysterious sisters group. The cloud of bats leads Zeke on a trail all of his own. This novel is a mix of adventure and science fiction, mixed with history and a dystopian struggle.
Everything you need to know, from which breed to choose, what types of shelter they need, health tips and more. If you’re thinking about getting chickens, this is the book to read!
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Based on the notorious true-life scandal of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, this novel portrays the dark truth about the kidnapping and illegal adoptions of children in the 1930 & 40s. Gripping and difficult to put down.
Charlotte Pence wrote a children’s book showing an average day in the life of the VP as seen through the eyes of the family’s pet bunny, Marlon Bundo. In a comedic response to the publication of Mrs. Pence’s book, Jon Oliver, of Last Week Tonight and Daily Show fame, commissioned a rebuttal book as a protest to the VP’s politics. Though two very different books, both are delightful and highly recommended.
This book is fantastic at showing you how to save time and energy in planning and implementing an organic lifestyle. And, hey—no digging!
Greetings: my staff pick for this month is a real page turner. My pick is Tim Dorsey’s 21st novel, The Pope of Palm Beach. Not everyone will appreciate a book about a fictional serial killer, but the combination of nostalgia, history, with an amusing back and forth in time is not only good but better than some of his writings. Serge A. Storms and his running mate (accomplice), Coleman are present again dispensing their strange and creative justice. Drunks disorienting leather back turtles nesting on the beach are, well, dealt with in a most effective and permanent manner. Unusually, there is another subplot about an injured surfer and his protégé who will soon meet Serge and Coleman with interesting results. Ya gotta love it. Of the 21 Serge novels I have read about 18 and expect to make up the difference soon. Enjoy!
April Staff Picks
In honor of National Poetry month, check out our poetry and local sections for these and many other fine poetic selections.
Set in a dark future where ammunition is cheaper than life, Scud follows the events of a cheap vending machine assassin known as Scud unit 1373. Scuds are easy to purchase hit-men made for taking out targets without a trace upon completion of a target’s assassination the unit will self-destruct, however our protagonist realizes this shocking revelation and leaves his target on life support, where he’s able to complete more tasks to pay the medical bills, and continue “enjoying” life. A story that has it all, Scud is a masterpiece of a graphic novel giving an unpredictable, yet satisfying read.
A monster adores bunny rabbits but they’re scared of him. Simple, colorful, and adorable art combined with minimal but vibrant text and a winning concept make this a fun and funny read-aloud.
The author reads his moving and believable story of a thirteen-year-old boy’s lessons about love, family, community, and food in modern-day Miami. Cartaya captures every character, from the drama-queen aunt to the trying-to-be-cool best friend.
In the 20th installment of the Inspector Thomas Lynley of Scotland Yard series, Inspector Lynley and his pugnacious and deeply loyal detective sergeant Barbara Havers, in a gripping and a deeply complex story of revenge and redemption, find themselves up against one of the most sinister murder cases they have ever encountered.
I was a fan of Ms. George’s from the first novel, A Great Deliverance, and she has not disappointed me since.
Marillier has created an adaptation that combines an old Irish legend and a common folktale about six swans. Daughter of the Forest is the first book in the Sevenwaters Series; It follows a family in ninth century Ireland and Britain. Sorcha is the only daughter of an esteemed Irish family that has close ties with the Otherworld. When a mysterious woman comes to Sevenwaters, Sorcha and her six brothers are confronted with a trial that will test their love and resolve for one another. Beautifully written and heart-wrenching, this story is just the first generation of the family at Sevenwaters.
In the kingdom of Polnya, a young girl named Agnieszka lives in a small village surrounded by forest. The Wood is dark, dangerous, and haunted; it is a living thing, a consciousness that works evils on all who venture into it. Agnieszka and her friend, Kasia, have feared it their entire lives, but that is not the only thing the two friends have feared. The only protection from the Wood is the Dragon, a powerful wizard who has made a deal with the village folk. He comes down from his tower every ten years to take a young girl as his servant. They are required to serve for ten years, but then they are free. Agnieszka and Kasia are eligible for the next choosing day, but Agnieszka is not that worried. Everyone knows that the Dragon will choose Kasia; she has prepared for it her whole life. Agnieszka has nothing to worry about… right?
This is a scientific collecting and adventure trip that takes place in the waters between the Baja Penninsula and the Mexican mainland. The variety and quantity of species in this body of water is unusual… fish such as large Manta and Bat Rays are frequently seen here and Steinbeck’s friendship with Ricketts (who was the inspiration for Doc in Cannery Row) allows him to give a very personal description of this trip. Definitely worth a read.
March Staff Picks
One of Us is Lying is a YA novel about a detention that goes very wrong: one student dies and the other four are suspects! McManus fills her novel with surprises, suspense, and stereotype-shattering, as well as a healthy dose of humor, but the most interesting things here are the relationships, not just between the unexpected allies of “The Murder Club” but between the suspects and their friends and families.
It’s Flavia de Luce! What more do you need to know? Our favorite 12-year-old chemist and crime solver is back and this time she literally catches the corpse with her own hand. Try to keep up with Flavia as she solves yet another murder while grieving the loss of her father and the potential loss of her childhood home.
If you haven’t read the series, well, what’s wrong with you? Get on it! Flavia is a must read for all good mystery buffs.
You can get the rest of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books here.
Greetings: My staff pick for this month is The Smell of the Night by Andrea Camilleri. This book had humor and complex intrigue reminiscent of a Bernie Madoff style ripoff. I thought I might have read this one before but it turned out I had seen it in a Detective Montalbano dvd… Very well written, a page turner. It even borrowed from William Faulkner (and credited the theme). Unfortunately Sr. Camilleri can’t write them fast enough. Enjoy.
This is a quirky, allegorical story following a 12-year-old boy named Haroun. His father is a famous storyteller who is the heart of their small, joyous city. The politicians of the Kingdom of Gup steal Haroun’s father away and their small, joyous city soon turns to a city of misery. On a mission to save his father and his beloved home, Haroun sets off on a topsy-turvy adventure that brings to light the issues in their corrupted society. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is at the time that Rushdie wrote this novel, he was prevented from being with his own 12-year-old son in India. His outspoken beliefs on government corruption and censorship, and his seminal work titled the Satanic Verses caused him to be exiled from his home country.
Annie John is about the life of a young girl living in Antigua, an island significantly impacted by British colonization. Annie’s coming-of-age story from the ages of ten to seventeen explore complex identity issues concerning sexuality, race, and the crucial maturation that causes a rift between her and her mother. The story also contrasts the modern perception of medicine and science with the traditional beliefs of religion and cultural mores. Annie John is often regarded as an unreliable narrator, but her experiences still speak to many of the issues that youth struggle with today.
Seconds is a humorous slice of life, fantasy, revolving around a depressed “middle aged” woman named Katie, trying to keep her life on track during the renovation of her dream restaurant, while also maintaining her old position at her former business. Throughout her complacent endeavors she tries to maintain her unstable relationship with her co-workers and rekindle a former love. Constantly failing across her journey Katie finds a cauldron filled with magical wish granting mushrooms, which she uses for her own nefarious gain in this delightful read by graphic novel author Bryan Lee O’Malley.
Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at a ultramodern Museum to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and predictions have made him a renowned figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s students at Harvard two decades ago, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence, when he is shot and killed. Robert Langdon and a young women try to find out who killed Edmond Kirsch and why? The truth will surprise you.
2005 Booker Prize out of Ireland. Max Morden relives a series of losses that have devastated his life. The author says he began the book as a third-person reminiscence on his boyhood summers by the sea and all the boredom that entailed. The story was going nowhere until an ego took control, inserting a first-person narrator at the helm. In this case, Banville creates an adolescent Max, whose summer memories are the most compelling parts of the novel. His sexual awakening is the subject matter and the book’s arrow is shot from the bow. The most engaging characters are members of the Grace family, a posh, quirky assortment of women who arouse his first desires. That erotic quest is complex and shoots toward a dramatic ending. Of course, the protagonist ages and gets married. He goes through the motions, but eros is absent from the anaerobic, anerotic adult half of the book. Sex happens but means nothing. His wife dies, we certainly don’t miss her. Max returns to the sea to contemplate the women–the meaning–missing from his life. Savage “black humor” is inserted to win us over to his side, but why aren’t we won by the story itself and our own curiosity about the characters? Max delivers particularly nasty comments about his adult daughter, condemned to rescue him from this bender by the sea. The narrative sparkles with brilliant patter about the obligation to feel grief, but suppresses any real feelings of grief. Of course, that’s the author’s point. How do we feel about people, how do we remember those we lose? Terrible questions that loom outside us like the sea, always threatening to pull us away.
Classic French sticking it to the British and the British sticking it to the French high seas drama.
February 2018 Picks
The first book in a trilogy, The 5th Wave follows the story of Cassiopeia Sullivan, a high school girl desperately trying to rescue her brother. The world she knew is gone, eradicated by the mothership that floats serenely above a landscape marked with four waves of destruction. The first wave of the alien attack took out all the electricity. The second brought on a tsunami that ravaged the coasts. The third brought the pestilence. The fourth brought the silencers. And now, Cassie is determined to find her brother before the fifth wave begins.
Nuclear war made the earth uninhabitable. In order to survive, humanity relies on three large spaceships to sustain them for three hundred years in earth’s orbit. Human society has adapted to the strict conditions that life in space requires. Anyone over the age of eighteen who commits a crime is “floated,” but the lawbreakers under eighteen are kept in isolated wings of the ship. One of those lawbreakers is a seventeen-year-old named Clarke Griffin. Clarke proves to be a capable medic, but cannot let go of the death of her father. The leaders of the spaceships decide that it is time to finally determine the Earth’s habitability, and send 100 juvenile prisoners to Earth’s surface. The 100 is the first novel in a series that follows Clarke’s and several other character’s harrowing stories as they try to make a new life on their old planet.
“A smart, funny preteen novel about a unique protagonist: very short Julia is cast as a Munchkin in a local production, causing her to gain and share wisdom about life on and off stage.”
After a staged terrorist attack kills the President and most of Congress, the government is deposed and taken over by the oppressive and all controlling Republic of Gilead. Offred, now a Handmaid serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife, can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Despite the danger, Offred learns to navigate the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules in hopes of ending the oppression.
“When Mavala Shikongo deserted them, the teachers at the boys’ school in Goas weren’t surprised. How could they be? She was too beautiful, too powerful, and too mysterious for their tiny, remote, and arid world. They knew only one essential fact about their departed colleague: she was a combat veteran of Namibia’s brutal war for independence. When Mavala returns to Goas with a baby son, all are awed by her boldness. The teachers try hard, once again, not to fall in love with her. They fail, immediately and miserably, especially the American volunteer, Larry Kaplanski.”
Peter Orner has a way with scenes that will fill your heart.
Ma makes the best cookies, so good that friends come from all over to partake. But there are only so many and the children have to divvy them up into even smaller portions each time the doorbell rings and new friends arrive. This is a great book for teaching the concepts of mathematical division and sharing with others.
Set in World War II Russia, in a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, 2 young men are forced to embark on a life or death hunt to find the impossible.
An enthralling read from start to finish.
“What would you have done?” Hannah Schmitz asks the judge during her trial for war crimes in the early 1960s. The judge was trying to determine her reason for leaving a factory job to take a job as a concentration camp guard–a job for which she showed an unflinching sense of duty. What was her role in the particular crime for which she was on trial? In the last year of the war, she drove prisoners on a death march from Auschwitz into the countryside. During this march, she took her orders so literally she and her fellow guards caused the death of nearly 300 Jewish women. They barred the prisoners’ escape from a church that caught fire during an allied bombing raid. Only a mother and daughter got out. The survivor takes the stand and accuses Hannah and her fellow guards of murder. Hannah asks, “What would you have done?” Those of us watching Kate Winslet say these words or silently reading them on the page are as jarred by her question as the judge was. Is the author asking us to consider her reasons and justify her choices?
But isn’t that the question brought up by Law–or Reading? If we don’t have the capacity to empathize and imagine, to listen to other peoples’ words and place ourselves inside their stories, there is no reason for juries, judges, trials–or Literature.
The law student, Michael, observes the courtroom from the gallery. He knows the defendant very well. Hannah had initiated a sexual relationship with him when he was an adolescent boy. This relationship ended when she abruptly moved away. He thought he was the reason she left town. He is now watching her on trial for war crimes. Learning about her past causes him great pain–especially remembering her bouts of meanness to him that left him confused and ashamed. Hannah had required that he read books aloud to her before having sex. The German title of the book means “The Reader Aloud.” He learns that she did the same to young girls in the Death Camp. Prior to their extermination, they were asked to read books aloud to Hannah. Michael infers that Hannah is illiterate. He believes shame over her inability to read was so strong she moved from job to job so her employers would not find out. Though she couldn’t read, she was deeply drawn to stories. It was part of her pathology.
Her personal secret and his involvement in that secret are a metaphor for those who survive abuse and invent “after-lives.” Germans in the generations following Nazism, like Michael, condemned what came before yet they were “involved in the lives” of those who committed or abetted crimes. They sought to understand why people acted as they did. The older Michael (Ralph Fiennes) says, “When I condemned it as it must be condemned, there was no room for understanding.” Bernhard Schlink’s, The Reader, may cause you to ponder your own role in history, “What would I have done?”
In this book about state censorship and the hope of those who preserve books in their memory, I found Mr. Bradbury to be a serious scholar of English Literature. Note the following quote: “This age thinks better of a gilded fool, than of a threadbare saint in wisdom’s school!” That was written in 1599 by Thomas Dekkar in a work titled Old Fortunato. Remind you of anyone? I thought I had read this before (about 45 years before) but it turned out I had only seen the movie. I am glad I read this. It has a hopeful ending.
A quick, wacky read for any fan of ridiculously overpowered superheroes. The story focuses on Saitama, a man so powerful he’s capable of destroying the biggest, baddest monster of all time in just one punch. This manga is filled to the brim with absurd satire on the superhero genre. The pacing is a delight that will make you excited for the next volume.
January 2018 Picks
Baking with Kafka is a collection of single-page comics giving a fun satire on the literary world.
Tom Gauld presents comically exaggerated descriptions revolving around various topics. Similar to that of an everyday newspaper comic strip, with a more deadpan sense of humor.
Overall a delightful, short read for The New Yorker fans, and those looking for a good intellectual laugh.
Presents Through the Window by Taro Gomi is about Santa bringing presents to the wrong animals and people but everything working out OK. The silly humor, guessing game aspect, and lesson about sharing make this a good read at other times besides Christmas.
Alphonse, That Is Not OK to Do by Daisy Hirst is a sweet but prickly and very funny look at two monster siblings who learn to get along.
Mark, Todd, and Zola came to law school to change the world, to make it a better place. But now, as third-year students, these close friends realize they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a third-tier, for-profit law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specializing in student loans, the three know they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam.
But maybe there’s a way out. Maybe there’s a way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. But to do so, they would first have to quit school. And leaving law school a few short months before graduation would be completely crazy, right? But See how these three friends work it out and win.
In honor of my Doyle-a-thon this month, I recommend Alan’s sophomore book. Alan Doyle is the former lead singer of Great Big Sea and my most favoritest of all things not related to me. If you don’t know of Mr. Doyle, this book is a great treat, taking you on tour with the boys, and if you do know Mr. Doyle, well, there you go. You will love it, and you will love him. Maybe enough to join us on part of the tour.
An epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power–and limitations–of family bonds. This new work by the author of the award-winning, Salvage the Bones, is an unforgettable family story.
A bear, 4 goslings, 3 mice and a tiny house do not make a good living arrangement so grumpy Bruce Bear and his extended family start looking for a bigger house. This is an adorable follow-up to my other favorites “Mother Bruce” and “Hotel Bruce” by the same author.
Read and Think Critically
A review by Dan Hess, Branch Librarian
The Pen is mightier than the Circus Knife. “In this book, I turn the tables on the Democratic Left and show that they — not Trump — are the real fascists. They are the ones who use Nazi bullying techniques and intimidation tactics and subscribe to a full-blown fascist ideology.” Quoth the circus knife-thrower, Dinesh D’souza, in The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left.
Shrieks and gasps from the audience. They love the drum rolls, the “hyper-partisan takedown” (Adam Howard), straw men pinned up against the wall of political history. The Big Lie aims rubber knives at various Democrats to show how they have kept Fascism alive in America all these years while Republicans have held Fascism in check. Slick operators from Herbert Marcuse to George Soros have duped us to accept their fascist worldview.
History is composed of facts; polemic is full of opinions and ad hominem attacks. The Big Lie is a reactionary polemic by a right-wing showman. US News Reviewer, Nicole Hemmer, writes, “D’Souza was a Conman in search of a mark….” Paul Gottlieb writes in The American Conservative, There are still many respectable historical works that are produced by scholars identified…with the American right. But there is also a plague of genuinely ridiculous writings on historical subjects coming from conservative media celebrities that surpass in their arrogant stupidity almost anything I’ve encountered in professional journals.”
How arrogant, you ask? How stupid? Democrats Andrew Jackson and Barack Obama–poles apart in any grade school history book–are tied together by their populist strategy to manipulate the People’s rage and discontent into voting “Democrat.” Other “Fascists” are brought to the stage. The Liberal pessimist, Herbert Marcuse, and Neoliberal financier, George Soros “collection boy for Hitler” become another odd pair skewered by D’Souza! Absent is the Left familiar to most Americans. Emma Lazarus (and my grandma) would say, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” D’Souza defends his legions of law-abiding Americans against imagined thugs who threaten censorship, intolerance, and political correctness.
“Damn, I got caught!” D’Souza’s showmanship falls flat when one looks at the FACTS of his own life. “In May 2014, D’Souza pleaded guilty to one felony count of making illegal campaign contributions in the names of others. In September 2014, the court sentenced D’Souza to five years probation, eight months in a halfway house (referred to as a “community confinement center”) and a $30,000 fine.” He had his daily coffee in a La Jolla cafe then hustled to do nightly penance in a correctional center bunk-bed. His outpatient treatment allowed him ample time to dream up The Big Lie. Some gulag Obama sentenced him to! Some Concentration Camp these latter-day Fascists invented for their snotty Dartmouth grad, aka political prisoner.
Was this knife-throwing act worth the $15 admission price, the cost of putting this book on the library shelf? The giant lie that lets such books get published is that history is entertainment. Nothing really Happens. Leftists were and still are in a worldwide Fascist Conspiracy to victimize the Right. Even though the heaps of suitcases left by the tracks of Auschwitz belonged to people who believed in pluralistic, democratic principles. Even though countless political prisoners died in Hitler’s Death Camps, turned in by Nazi sympathizers for their Leftist views or arrested for armed resistance against the Fascist Right. That’s history, folks, and the knives were real.
Read The Big Lie and think critically then compare it to:
From the Publisher: Republican Senator Jeff Flake takes his party to task for embracing nationalism, populism, xenophobia, and the anomalous Trump presidency. The book is an urgent call for a return to bedrock conservative principle and a cry to once again put country before party.
A science fiction classic set in a dystopian society dominated by patriarchal, Christian fanaticism. The story follows a young woman named Offred who is struggling to survive. She questions if she will ever escape the horrors of her new life, but she refuses to let the memory of her old life and loved ones to be taken from her. There is a film adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale that was released in the 1990s. However, The Handmaid’s Tale was recently adapted to a television series that won 2018 Golden Globe awards for Best Drama TV Series and Best Actress in a Drama TV Series. The television series was exceptional and I recommend watching it if you have the chance. Unfortunately, the DVD version of the television series has not been released yet.
Tulip Fever is a dramatic romance set in 17th century Amsterdam when the tulip market becomes extremely lucrative. Sophia is a 24-year-old woman who has been freed from poverty by her wealthy, Catholic husband, Cornelis. Several factors, including their major age difference, have made it impossible for Sophia to be happy. However, Cornelis commissions a family portrait by a local artist named Jan. A romance begins that inextricably alters the lives of everyone in the household. Tulip Fever was recently adapted to a film starring Christoph Waltz and Alicia Vikander. The DVD is available through the library.
World-renowned midwife Ina May explores the feats of childbirth and helps women shed the fear of the unknown. This book is full of useful, but forgotten, information for labor, birthing, postpartum care and so much more. I enjoyed her realistic approach and attitude towards childbirth and the encouraging birth stories she chose to include.
This novel takes place during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Between an antique Thunderbird named Lola and a couple of antique motorcycles, how can you go wrong? What starts out to be an apparent hit and run accident turns into something much more complicated. Engaging, too.